HSV GTS with Magnetic Ride Control suspension (MRC)
“An outstanding innovation, which dramatically improves ride, handling and safety”
HSV’s GTS accelerates from O-100km/h in less than five seconds. For that reason alone, it belongs to an elite club.
Even more exclusive, is its membership in the MRC club, whose members include the latest Chevy Corvette (an option on the Vette) and Ferrari’s super expensive 599 Fiorano.
Science was never a strong subject of mine but what made it bearable was that all too infrequent single file march to the formaldehyde scented Science lab.
Apart from anything requiring a gased up Bunsen burner, those experiments with the giant sized magnets and iron filings provided the most entertainment.
So what’s a magnet and a science lab got to do with HSV’s latest luxo hotrod? An awful lot, actually. Apart from larger wheels (they do look the business) and a few cosmetic changes inside and out, positively charged metal spheres, more than anything else, is what transforms an R8 Clubsport into a GTS.
Magnetic Ride Control is the world’s fastest acting suspension but its not exactly new.
General Motors, in association with leading edge US parts company Delphi and the Lord Corporation, first employed this smart technology in 2002, aboard the luxury Cadillac Seville.
But why not just use some quality shock absorbers from the likes of Bilstein or KONI rather than all the trouble and expense of Magnetic Ride Control? Not such a hard question to answer really.
Standard shocks absorb and smooth out the bumps and imperfections on the road surface so as the tyres have the best possible contact with this surface. They do this by controlling the movement of the wheels by pushing fluid through a variety of valve-controlled passages inside the shock casing.
The best way to view this action outside that of a research facility, is when you are a passenger in a car, focus your eyes on the front wheel of the car bedside and watch it travel up and down (thousands of times a minute) as it absorbs even the smallest of imperfections in the road surface.
The system works fine if you travel on nice piece of straight road, even if the surface has a bad case of acne. But the moment you try and combine a complaint ride with razor sharp handling is where it can get very tricky.
Let me explain. The Rolls Royce Phantom is as close to a magic carpet ride, as you are ever likely to experience. And so it should, at just on one million Aussie dollars. You just don’t feel any bumps at all. None whatsoever.
But try lapping Eastern Creek raceway in a Phantom and you’re likely to need every airbag the car has got, and then some.
You’re right. A Rolls Royce Phantom will never see a racetrack. That’s an absurd idea. These cars are built to chauffeur the ultra-minted in extraordinary luxury, and they do that, better than any other car on the planet.
You will therefore appreciate the engineering know how, that goes into those rare breed of cars, which offer both a comfortable ride and proper performance car handling. You might say it’s the Holy Grail of automotive engineering.
This is where the General’s Magnetic Ride Control takes centre stage. The heart of MRC is a magic potion called Magneto-Rheological Fluid cooked up by the Lord Corporation. The best way to describe this stuff is a liquid such as mineral or synthetic oil with up to 40% volume of pure iron particles suspended in the fluid.
When the iron fillings (let’s call them that) are magnetised, they bond together into fibrous structures with a consistency, proportional to that of the magnetic field. So, from a thin oily solution, to honey-like syrup, or as thick as engine grease, in less time than a heartbeat.
It’s Brilliant stuff. What that means, is almost instantaneous and variable changes in damping force, as the shock absorbers no longer have to force fluid through a series of internal valves, but simply vary the amount of charge to the fluid inside the strut. Essentially, you have a semi-active suspension system on board which unlike traditional shocks, offer an unlimited range of damping variations.
Controlling the amount of resistance to each shock absorber are electronic sensors at each wheel, whose job it is to measure how far the wheel moves up and down. You’re not going to get a lot of movement on a smooth asphalt surface, but venture off onto Australia’s suburban backwater road hell, and larger wheel movements will be countered by a more powerful current to the magneto-rheological fluid, which makes the shocks a lot stiffer.
MRC also irons out that dreaded body lean and front-end brake dive, by monitoring additional data such as the steering wheel angle, direction of the vehicle’s travel, and information from the antilock brakes and traction control systems.
So is there a huge difference in handling and ride between the ClubSport R8 and the GTS?
There’s certainly a difference although, the R8 with its superbly balanced chassis and huge rear end footprint, grips like no tomorrow, so its not so easy to tell under normal driving conditions.
That said we fired up the 307kW Morpheous coloured GTS and headed for our favourite 11km stretch of tight, bend to bend bitumen, to properly put the MRC to the test.
Before we dropped the pedal though, we switched the ride control setting from Performance to Track, to provide the stiffest possible suspension. We were going to be into these bends with some ferocity.
The Corvette gets a proper piece of switchgear for this job. The GTS deserves the same.
There’s slightly less body roll from the GTS when turning in sharply, but the difference is subtle in my opinion, and that goes for the ride quality too. Subtle, but I’m glad it’s there, kind of feeling.
“Magnetic Ride Control is a good thing, no question. The system is doing so much, so fast, that you are barely aware of its existence. My point is, I’d rather have it, than not have it”
By: Anthony Crawford